Leader of the opposition Godwin Friday says a New Democratic Party (NDP) administration would create an environment in which businesses can flourish, beginning with a review of all duties and port procedures and a reduction in value added tax (VAT).
“It must not be a philosophy of government or business; but one of government for business; both working together to create prosperity for our people,” Friday told the NDP’s virtual political meeting on Thursday.
He said he has started and would continue consultations with business people to assure them that the NDP does see it as government or business, but government for business so that we must all work together to bring about prosperity in our country,” the opposition leader said.
“What we have had over the last 20 years is a competition between government and business to see who should be the driving force in our economy. That’s why we are in the sorry state we are now,” Friday said.
“What is unnecessary and makes it harder to do business, we will remove. The red tape that now ties up business will be cut and removed,” he said.
Friday said that as part of the NDP’s plan to support local businesses and create new jobs, an NDP administration will do a comprehensive review of the local business environment and see what works and what does not work for business.
He said they must listen to our businesspeople to hear what they experience every day and work with them to make things better so that they will succeed.
Friday said that one of the places that an NDP government would start is at the ports, “to make sense of the processes and procedures there and to make sense of the charges and duties paid there.
“Where they make no sense, or are too slow, we will reduce them and improve them,” Friday said.
He said an NDP government will review all duties and port procedures with a view to removing taxes and costly delays on productive sectors of our economy.
“Many businesses are not able to keep up with the latest developments in equipment and technology due to the huge burden of these duties, and costly delays in processing at our ports,” the opposition leader said.
“Let’s work together to free up the system so that business can flourish. It is needed urgently in our country. When what we are doing now doesn’t work, then we have to replace it. We have to change it to something better.”
He said he does not blame the people in the system.
“The system itself is what is broken. It was put in place and held in place by this present administration, even when it is clear that it is harming the economy,” Friday said.
He reiterated the NDP’s promise to reduce VAT from 16 to 13%, adding that the tax system that currently exists under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration “unfairly hurts poorer people, for whom VAT takes up a larger proportion of their income.
“We will remove VAT from many basic food items. To ensure those on the lowest incomes can access the basics, like fresh food and medicine. We will also remove VAT on these items.”
The opposition leader said this will put more money back in the pockets of consumers and help to stimulate the economy.
Friday said that the NDP’s plan is to create new jobs and to grow the Vincentian economy.
“That is fundamental,” he said, adding, “We have made it clear that we will support important sectors of the economy; namely tourism, agriculture, and the fishing industry.”
He said an NDP administration would invest in business because local businesses are the backbone of our nation.
Only with a healthy private sector can SVG reduce unemployment, improve living standards and develop a sustainable economy, the opposition leader said.
He said the NDP is committed to creating new jobs for Vincentians, opportunities for young people and sustainably developing our country to match and beat the nation’s peers in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
“Why must we always lag behind? It is not our lot in life; it is a result of poor governance,” he said.